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Ventana Sur: Producers Discuss Complexity of Fiction Remakes

BUENOS AIRES — Esteemed Argentine film producers gathered to relay their experiences with fiction remakes as part of Ventana Sur’s industry conference series held at the UCA campus in Buenos Aires on Monday.

The panelists included Juan Vera and Marcos Carnevale, directors who sold the rights to their films “Mama Se Fue De Viaje,” and “Elsa y Fred,” respectively, as well as Sebastián Aloi, who produced “Re Loca,” the remake of Chilean film “Sin Filtro.” Navigating the discussion was David Castellanos, managing director of Madrid-based Cinema Republic, who encouraged the group to detail the finesse needed to rework a script for new markets.

Vera, who also serves as artistic director for Argentine production company Patagonik, relayed that “The films that are easiest to remake are those that have universal themes.”

“In the case of ‘Mama Se Fue De Viaje,’ the concept came up by chance when I was with a friend who couldn’t even boil an egg, and his wife went on vacation. It was fun; it was a typical pattern for families around the world; it worked very well as a remake,” he added.

Even when the theme is universal, the panel cautioned that certain intricate cultural details should be understood and maintained for a successful remake, going on to discuss the importance of keeping certain films closer to the societies they’re conceived within.

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“In the case of ‘Nueve Reinas,’ remade as ‘Criminal,’ in the United States, it lost all of its authenticity and humility. It was a failure,” Vera said.

“The U.S. murders remakes that aren’t their own. Unless it’s ‘Scarface.’ They make great remakes of films in their own industry, but kill remakes from other countries,” Carnevale added. “As a writer and director, it’s very hard to see your film made by someone else. You expect, and you’re looking for, the same essence, and it’s not always there,” he said.

Aloi, who worked with his company Aeroplano Cine while producing “Re Loca,” stated that he only felt it necessary to rework the ending, adding, “we had access to the creators of the original script to consult with, to add insight, so we did well. If you can capture the rhythms and structures of the original, you’re good.”

“Remakes are convenient when they pose a challenge. I like to ask myself what I could do differently here,” Carnavale remarked.

“The change you make has to be controlled though, I give free rein to the new producers, but they should reach the same quality of the original on every level, or else it’s not worth it,” Vera chimed in.

The group went on to discuss live-action remakes as Carnevale offered-up his opinion, “these live remakes like ‘The Lion King,’ it’s good business because they’re well-known titles. When it’s repeated so much, it lacks imagination. This happens a lot in Hollywood.”

Castellanos doubled down on the notion that overall success lies in choosing a familiar story that’s done well at the box office and can travel, then helping that story along by selecting the right director.

“We had a project where we hired an auteur director, and he gave us such a hard time due to his ego, the film wasn’t successful in the end with his direction.” He went on to state, “We have a new project in the works and this time we hired a director who has worked on more commercial projects, and he’s working very well, not giving us any grief, and I believe this film will do great in the end because of that.”

The evening came to a close as panelists discussed the somber state of the modern world and agreed that comedy remakes, while often dismissed by critics and awards ceremonies, were the best bet.

As Vera stated, “people can step outside and see drama all around them; they need something to raise their spirits, help them have a bit of fun.”

Carnevale agreed, adding, “we need to make people laugh in this terrible world, I’m going to repeat an old saying: Make them laugh, and you’ll get a house with a swimming pool.”

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